Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir linked to Bali bombings walks free

A convicted firebrand cleric who inspired the Bali bombers and other violent extremists walked free from an Indonesian prison Friday after completing his sentence for funding the training of Islamic militants.

Police said they would continue to monitor the activities of Abu Bakar Bashir, who is now 82 and ailing, and his son said Bashir for now would be avoiding activities outside his family due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bashir was imprisoned in 2011 for his links to a militant training camp in the religiously conservative Aceh province. He was convicted of funding the military-style camp to train Islamic militants and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Bashir has accumulated 55 months of sentence reductions, which are often granted to prisoners on major holidays, such as Independence Day, religious holiday exemptions and illness, said Rika Aprianti, the spokesperson for the corrections department at the Justice Ministry.

"He is released as his sentence ends and expires," Aprianti said, adding that her ministry had close cooperation with the National Police's counterterrorism squad and the National Counterterrorism Agency to provide security during the cleric's release.

Bashir, wearing a white robe and face mask, was escorted by members of police's elite anti-terrorism squad, known as Densus 88, when he led into a waiting car outside the Gunung Sindur prison in West Java's Bogor town, at dawn on Friday, Bashir's son Abdul Rohim, told The Associated Press.

He said that family, a team of Bashir's lawyers and a medical team accompanied Bashir who returned to his home in Central Java's Solo city, about 538 kilometers (334 miles) east of the capital, Jakarta, just after walked free from prison. An ambulance was also following the entourage.

National Police spokesperson Ahmad Ramadhan said the police would continue to monitor Bashir's activities.

"I just want to avoid my father from crowds during the coronavirus pandemic," Bashir's son, Abdul Rohim, said. "He would only rest and gather with his family until the outbreak ends, there will be no other activities of him for sure."

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